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Digger Deeper: AL-Only Waiver Wire Report for Week 11


Every week in baseball, a significant player will hit the disabled list, slip into a slump, or get traded out of a good spot. How fantasy owners adapt to these situations can make or break the season as a whole. One lousy add might not hurt the long-term standing of a team, but failing to take advantage of breakouts or impact bats before others sure can.

The primary challenge of playing in an NL or AL-only league is often the lack of options regarding adding and subtracting players when needed. In mixed leagues, the players on the waiver wire are usually starting for an NL-only staff. So then how does one wade through the names of players that even regular fantasy players have never heard of, and that often will not even start for their teams to begin with? That is where this series comes in.

Instead of owners spending time digging the waiver wire for 0% owned players, this article will give owners a player at each position to fill the gap, or at the least, keep an eye on to add or stash. Not all of these players will replace that injury, but offer the best option off the scrap heap. Often the players advocated for here are long shots due to the nature of shallow leagues. No quick fixes, but some upside that could turn into much more. Now, onto the AL version of the Island of Misfit Fantasy Toys. Note, all FAAB recommendations are based on a $1000 budget.

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C - Beau Taylor (C, OAK)

0% owned, FAAB $5

This pick was going to be top prospect Sean Murphy but with Taylor getting the call first, he makes the list this week. Murphy is the better dynasty and 2020+ redraft option, but with Taylor playing twice last week owners need to be buying the players with playing time. A former fifth-round selection, Taylor is already 29 and was a slow moved in the team's organizational ladder. A bit old for the debut, catchers still offer time to develop.

In 38 games at Triple-A Taylor was slashing .297/.450/.492 with five homers. Add in 28 runs, and Taylor has offered real value at the plate. In fact, at Double-A over the past few years, Taylor has been a .300 hitter, with more direct run support that power value. For owners in need of a backstop, there are questions regarding how long Taylor will be up, but, for now, buy into a hot bat.

 

1B - Cheslor Cuthbert (1B/3B, KC)

1% owned, FAAB $11

While mainly a third baseman, Cuthbert has added first in most fantasy leagues this year as well. Through 37 ABs, he is slashing .324/.375/.595 with three homers and one steal for the Royals. A piece of the puzzle last year, Cuthbert disappointed with a weak start with a  .194/.282/.301 slash over 30 games. With this call, it seems that he might still be in the picture, putting him back on the radar.

One issue will be run support, as all three of his runs so far have been scored via his own homers. The difference is that this year Cuthbert is hitting the ball much harder, with a 90.1 exit velocity, and is posting a 42.3 Hard Hard%. This means that with some power, he can move to a self-sustaining option in fantasy leagues. At the very least, Cuthbert looks to the starting third baseman for the time being, so owners will have time to see which is the real version of the player.

 

2B - Dylan Moore (2B/3B/SS, SEA)

0% owned, FAAB $11

Entering the year as the utility option at Triple-A, Moore forced his way into the team with a good spring. While the results have been mediocre so far, with a .202/.311/.315 slash through 41 games, he does seem to have a robust role on this team. Over the past week, he has been the starting shortstop evert game, and while he projects best off the bench, he looks to be set to play for the next few weeks.

Over his minor league career, Moore posted a career .259 batting line but has a .271 line over 104 total games at Triple-A. There is not much power with 42 homers in 447 games, but he has been hitting more as he has moved up the organizational ladder. While owners will not like him batting ninth, the playing time, and some floor value at second, makes Moore the value this week. Not much more to say, as there is a low ceiling even with the utility-level floor.

 

3B - Rio Ruiz (3B, BAL)

0% owned, FAAB $7

A former Atlanta farmhand, Ruiz finds himself holding down third for the lowly Orioles this year. A player with a bit more fantasy value that real value, due to his streak plate approach, Ruiz offers the bat and playing time to be worth a look this week. In 58 games this year, Ruiz is slashing .234/.304/.322 with four homers and 15 runs scored. With a career line in the same spot, this is what owners can expect at the plate the rest of the way.

One reason to be in on Ruiz is his current platoon role. Batting lefty, Ruiz not only has the long side of the platoon but can avoid his .200 batting line versus lefties this year. Versus righties he is hitting .247, so right in line with replacement level at the spot. Most of his career power has also come versus righties, so the role will accent what little Ruiz can offer. Buy for the playing time, and hope that the hit tool emerges with the park factors.

 

SS - Ehire Adrianza (1B/2B/3B/SS, MIN)

1% owned, FAAB $24

After moving from the Giants to the Twins before 2017 Adrianza has moved from a bench filler to a potential fantasy starter. While “star” but be a bit much, there is some real value to be had with a player who can fill any spot on the field. Even more the bat is starting to pick up. For example, since joining the Twins Adriana has a batting average of .262, a 40 point jump from his time with the Giants. While there is little to no power, with a career-average four homers a year, the batting average provides a solid floor on its own at short.

The other news on the power is that Adrianza is finally hitting for some with regularity. With four homers already this year, Adrianza has also pushed his SLG line up 40 points in the process. Add in that he is hitting the ball harder this year; the increased pop might be sustainable. For now, a substantial bench addition, but if the batting line continues, Adrianza could be a starting shortstop by year’s end.

 

OF - Cameron Maybin (OF, NYY)

1% owned, FAAB $17

Back on the list after continuing to play and hit for the Yankees, Maybin is looking like a genuine bargain on the wire. Through 35 games Maybin is slashing .274/.361/.368 with one homer and five steals. The speed has been the surprise, as Maybin is 32. Still, like Rajai Davis, he looks to be a cheap source of stolen bases with some batting average value to balance it out. While he lacks the same steals ceiling, there are nine more bags in there the rest of the way at this pace.

While valuable last year, Maybin battled to a .252 line with both the Marlins and the Mariners. The reason for the surge this year is in part the team, but also Maybin’s patience. Last year he saw 3.66 P/PA and this year that number is up to 4.37. For his career, when Maybin sees four pitches per at-bat, the batting floor is around .270. Factoring the runs and speed upside, and Maybin might be an OF2 in AL-only.

 

OF - Robbie Grossman (OF, OAK)

1% owned, FAAB $9

At this point, I might be the only fantasy player still in on Grossman. While he has had his struggles so far, in AL-only formats his batting value is clear. The season-long slash is up to .247/.333/.385 with four homers and five steals. Owners want the batting line to be higher, and with a .255 career line, there is some interest in regression. The good news is that he does have a .264 xBA with a .382 xSLG, showing an upturn in value, even with some issues to start the campaign.

Still, the primary value from Grossman comes from his switch-hitting. For his career, Grossman is hitting .283 versus lefties, and this is where the team is playing him. Able to play around the outfield as well, Grossman is not going anywhere with a future roster move. Even more, when he can hit versus most pitchers, he can play on days to spell other regulars in the outfield. With that comes playing time, and as the Athletics have shown their ability to score via the longball, Grossman is a smart add at this point in the season.

 

OF - Brock Holt (2B/SS/OF, BOS)

1% owned, FAAB $4

The ultimate utility player for fantasy owners, Holt seems to always be at the bottom of the waiver wire. The good news is that when he has been healthy the team is playing him. Through 17 games Holt is slashing .269/.345/.308 with eight runs. No real power or speed to bank on for fantasy value, Holt has flashed the hit tool at times. With a career line of .267, Holt has touched .300 at points twice in his career. With the skills, the issues with playing time will push those rate stats down, so with Holt getting a run, expect those to normalize soon.

Another player who makes the list due to the plate approach, the P/PA is up to 4.34 from 4.01 this campaign. While his BB% is down a bit, with the sample, expect the plate approach to balance out the line over the year. With a .271 xBA, Holt looks to be on pace for one of his better years. Watch the sample size for value the rest of the way, but for now, Holt should be a cheap add.

 

SP - Daniel Norris (SP, DET)

3% owned, FAAB $7

A key piece in the David Price deal back in 2015, Norris is still looked at as a potential starter after this rebuild for Detroit. While he has yet to solidify his future, Norris’s 2019 campaign has been his best to date. Through 10 starts he has posted a 4.60 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP. The numbers do not jump off the screen, but Norris has flashed better command this year. For example, his BB% is down to 5.9 from an 8.3 career line. Not enough to make Norris a star, the wall rate has been one of the main thorns for fantasy owners to date.

Even more, Norris has moved away from his fastball in the pitch mix. Last year, 49% of his offerings were fastballs, and this year, that number is down to 41%. The principal beneficiary has been the changeup, up to 12% from 6.5% last year. With a 36.4 Whiff% on the latter pitch, the move seems to be effective so far. For now, stream with good match-ups, but watch for even more value if the changeup continues to play up.

 

RP - Heath Hembree (RP, BOS)

1% owned, FAAB $17

With the Boston bullpen in flux, fantasy owners are looking for any stability that they can latch onto for future value. Enter Hembree, with a 2.52 ERA and 1.12 WHIP through 28.2 innings. Add in a few saves, and there is clearly value in the profile even without a set role. With five SV+Hs to his line, Hembree will be a fantasy reliever who can also add some late wins, even without the move to the closer role.

One of the main drivers for Hembree's 2019 has been the opponents xBA down this year to .194 from .204 last year. Not a huge drop, but still enough movement to be worth a look. The pther change has come from his pitch mix, as he is throwing 20% more fastballs, and has dropped his slider usage to 14.3% from 33% last year. Expect the mix to continue, and with a fastball posting a 28.7 PutAway%, Hembree needs to be owned in more spots.

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